The Fulton City School District and its largest union are about to begin talks towards a new contract at the same time as the district is trying to squeeze every penny of savings out of a budget that so far contains a massive deficit.
A committee of district officials, Board of Education members and members of the community met Tuesday night to continue working on the 2010-11 budget.Ã‚Â The most recent draft of the budget shows that spending is up 2.6% but the tax levy would have to increase by more than 13%, primarily because the state is planning to cut state aid to all schools.Ã‚Â The current draft includes the loss of 8 full-time jobs.
Community member Fred Cavaliere asked Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch how much money he was putting in the budget for salary increases for members of the teachers’ union and for members of the administrators’ union. Contracts for both unions end at the end of the school year.
“We don’t have money.Ã‚Â We’re not shy about saying that,” Lynch said.
The district may not have money, but it has to pretend it does, at least when it comes to projecting the outcome of contract talks.
The new budget has to be complete by mid-April because it will be voted on during the statewide school budget voting day in May.Ã‚Â The contracts do not expire until the end of June and an early agreement seems unlikely.Ã‚Â So the district has to build in some money for raises, even if its position will be no raises.Ã‚Â That’s because a state factfinder could ultimately order a settlement and it could include raises.
“Our experience with fact-finding was that they told us, ‘Go find the money'” for raises, said Board of Education member Robbin Griffin.
“We would be irresponsible to plan too low,” said Lynch.
So money for potential raises goes into the budget.
The teachers’ union’s annual payroll is $21.06 million, while the administrators’ payroll is $1.4 million. (Each payroll is actually slightly higher, but federal grants cover that portion.)Ã‚Â That means that every 1% increase in salary in the new contract will cost about $225,000.
Put another way: If the district could be certain that there would be no raises in 2010-11 for members of those two unions, it could reduce its budget without cutting programs or staff.Ã‚Â Assuming the district is setting aside enough money for 3% increases, that would equal about $675,000.Ã‚Â Cutting that spending out of the draft budget would lower the tax levy from the current 13.4% to just under 10%.
The district has been projecting about $60,000 in savings for every teaching position cut, so that $675,000 equals about 11 teaching positions.
“We may have to be as blunt (with the unions) as, ‘$1.5 million equals 38 teachers'”, said community member Ed Proto.
Lynch reviewed for the committee other ways of cutting the budget beyond the 8 positions that have been targeted for elimination.Ã‚Â They include:
- Cutting 5 positions in grades K-8 for academic intervention services for math, because math is an area of strength right now;
- Eliminating one position each in high school math, English, science and social studies;
- Not replacing one high school technology teacher;
- Restructuring the technology infrastructure department;
- Cutting into teacher development programs;
- Eliminating one of the late bus runs;
- Making more efficient use of non-instructional aides.
One board member indicated it was time to revisit plans, made last year before anyone knew how bad the budget would be, to preserve sports, extracurricular and co-curricular spending at current levels.